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McClatchy-Tribune  08/31/2014 7:28 AM ET
Select Group founder and CEO Sheldon Wolitski plots expansion [The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) :: ]

Aug. 31--RALEIGH -- RALEIGH Sheldon Wolitski, the founder and CEO of technology staffing company The Select Group, regularly consults with three outside advisers about how best to manage and nurture his business. He meets separately with each of them, setting aside a total of more than a dozen hours each month.

"If Tiger Woods can have five coaches, and he's the best in the world, I can use all the help I can get," said Wolitski, 42. "I'm a big believer in surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you and have gained more experiences."

It's proved to be a winning formula for Wolitski, whose company provides contract and temporary IT and engineering workers -- and also recruits permanent workers -- for clients such as Red Hat, MetLife and Cisco Systems.

Last year Raleigh-based Select generated $64.3 million in revenue, more than three-and-a-half times its 2010 revenue of $17.4 million.

Still, Wolitski's ambition is unabated. The law of large numbers holds that the bigger you become, the harder it is to maintain your expansion rate, but the company's latest growth plan nonetheless targets 30-percent-plus growth for each of the next three years.

Today the company employs 180 workers on the recruiting and placement side of the business who operate out of eight cities in the United States and Canada, including about 95 at its Raleigh headquarters. In addition to those "internal" employees, the company employs nearly 750 consultants who work at client sites.

To accommodate future growth, Select Group needs more room than the 25,000 square feet of space it leases near Raleigh's PNC Arena. So last week, Wolitski paid $3.8 million for a 40,000-square-foot building near Jones-Franklin Road in West Raleigh.

"It's the biggest purchase I've made," said Wolitski, the sole owner of Select.

He expects to spend more than $2 million to renovate the building to his liking.

"If we're out there giving advice to our clients on how they need to attract and retain talent, and part of that is creating a nice work environment, then we have to mirror that as well," he said. "So we're trying to lead by example."

Growth brings challenges

Robert Simora, chief information officer and vice president of product development at Cary's Railinc, which provides software and information services to the freight rail industry, has used Select Group to hire temporary workers for years. Today Railinc has about 20 temporary workers it hired through Select.

"They really do put the customer first," Simora said. "They know if they do that, (their) business is going to be successful as well."

Simora said that the Select team distinguishes itself by the amount of effort it takes to understand Railinc's business and its culture. That's crucial because, for instance, Railinc wants its IT project managers to have a strong development background, whereas some companies are more focused on scheduling.

One challenge facing Wolitski is that maintaining Select's service-oriented culture will become more and more difficult as the company becomes much larger, said Frank Plastina, one of Wolitski's coaches.

But Plastina, whose resume includes a stint as CEO of Tekelec and as the top Triangle executive at Nortel Networks, sees Wolitski as being up to that challenge.

Too many entrepreneurs who build a successful company from scratch believe they know it all and can do it all, said Plastina.

Wolitski, by contrast, "has that self-awareness where he realizes, no, I know what my limitations are. I know what my strengths are. And I'm going to deal with them. That's very, very mature for a young CEO/founder."


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